Within minutes of news leaking last week that Neal Shapiro was out as president of NBC News, the guessing game began: Who will replace him? Initially, the buzz centered on three internal candidates—NBC Nightly News Executive Producer Steve Capus, NBC News Senior VP Phil Griffin and MSNBC chief Rick Kaplan. But Flash! hears that all three are long shots. There was also speculation about Court TV chief Henry Schleiff’s getting the nod, but that’s a reach, too. One rumor making the rounds is that NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol will be tapped for a dual role—just as his mentor, the late Roone Arledge, famously ran both ABC’s news and sports divisions. Does Ebersol have pull on the news side at NBC? Well, he helped put former sports producer Jim Bell in his job as executive producer of Today last month.
Meanwhile, the official spin continues that Shapiro asked to be let out of his contract. The reality is, he was shown the door by his boss, NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker. Shapiro’s star had been fading for more than a year. Major changes at the news division, such as naming Kaplan to run MSNBC and replacing Tom Touchet with Bell, were made by Zucker and presented to Shapiro as done deals. Famously loyal, Shapiro is said to have hoped the network might reciprocate by allowing him to stay on in some capacity until his pact ends in 2006, but that’s unlikely to happen